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Weekend Reads, Nov. 20

Our special guest this week is Emmy Favilla, BuzzFeed’s copy chief, talking about some of her favorite stories she read online recently.

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As a native New Yorker who has relied on the subway to get around since my commute to kindergarten, I find the history of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City subway system endlessly fascinating. This Atlantic story by James Somers delves into the complex (and outdated) systems in place that make it so damn difficult to simply install countdown clocks in most subway stations — and why, “at the current pace of installation, the subway system as a whole won’t be converted to CBTC [communications-based train control] for another 175 years. It will cost $20 billion.”

This New Yorker piece by Emily Witt about the “hippie-ish” couple behind Erowid, the online encyclopedia of psychoactives that “occupies a useful middle ground between unedited drug forums and scientific journals,” was a fun read. It's a colorful profile of the site's creators as well as insightful exploration of the history of the site, how it's been perceived along the way, and the ways in which it has helped medical professionals and researchers.

In this beautifully written and compelling narrative, BuzzFeed News' Nicolas Medina Mora and Mike Hayes tell the story of a Somali-American teenager who was convinced by undercover FBI agents to take part in the (fake) bombing of a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The FBI admitted to reading his electronic messages prior to the setup — and his lawyers attempted an entrapment defense — in a case that could potentially be the first to challenge the NSA's mass surveillance methods uncovered by Edward Snowden.

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